Monday, July 15, 2013

The Way Things Are

I have heard it said that the more we learn, the more we realize how little we actually know. I had a similar thought when I heard someone use the expression "due to circumstances beyond my control" recently.

As fallen humans, we tend to be self-centered, which also makes us believe we are "in control." Our society prides itself on climbing the corporate ladder, making decisions, and planning out our futures. I myself am guilty of being, what some might call, a control freak. God, however, continues to graciously and gently remind me of my self limitations. It is mind blowing sometimes to really think back over our lives. We strive and struggle and sometimes lie, cheat and steal to get what we want, just to end up somewhere we never wanted to go. We want so badly to believe we are ultimately the ones in control of everything; then when one little hair gets out of place, and it most assuredly will, we are dumbfounded because we thought we had it all under control.

I stand in awe as I look back on my own life. Some of the things that seemed so hard, or things I didn't want to do, or even choices I made that seemed to go "sideways" and get away from me, have all worked together, to make me who I am today. Even if one of the littlest decisions had been made differently, or even a split second later, and I wouldn't be here, in this same place today. For us to believe that we somehow are in control enough to work all of that out is just plain hubris. God alone is in complete control, and no matter what road you took to get here, it was exactly the right path; including all the dirt, debris, luggage, and heartache. We are right where God intended us to be.

May we stop pretending to have it all under control, and thank God for all He has guided us through. I leave you with a lengthy scripture reading from Job 38-39 to help put things in perspective:

38 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
“Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
“Or who shut in the sea with doors,
When it burst forth and issued from the womb;
When I made the clouds its garment,
And thick darkness its swaddling band;
10 When I fixed My limit for it,
And set bars and doors;
11 When I said,
‘This far you may come, but no farther,
And here your proud waves must stop!’
12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
And caused the dawn to know its place,
13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth,
And the wicked be shaken out of it?
14 It takes on form like clay under a seal,
And stands out like a garment.
15 From the wicked their light is withheld,
And the upraised arm is broken.
16 “Have you entered the springs of the sea?
Or have you walked in search of the depths?
17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you?
Or have you seen the doors of the shadow of death?
18 Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?
Tell Me, if you know all this.
19 “Where is the way to the dwelling of light?
And darkness, where is its place,
20 That you may take it to its territory,
That you may know the paths to its home?
21 Do you know it, because you were born then,
Or because the number of your days is great?
22 “Have you entered the treasury of snow,
Or have you seen the treasury of hail,
23 Which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
For the day of battle and war?
24 By what way is light diffused,
Or the east wind scattered over the earth?
25 “Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water,
Or a path for the thunderbolt,
26 To cause it to rain on a land where there is no one,
A wilderness in which there is no man;
27 To satisfy the desolate waste,
And cause to spring forth the growth of tender grass?
28 Has the rain a father?
Or who has begotten the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?
And the frost of heaven, who gives it birth?
30 The waters harden like stone,
And the surface of the deep is frozen.
31 “Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades,
Or loose the belt of Orion?
32 Can you bring out Mazzaroth[a] in its season?
Or can you guide the Great Bear with its cubs?
33 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
Can you set their dominion over the earth?
34 “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
That an abundance of water may cover you?
35 Can you send out lightnings, that they may go,
And say to you, ‘Here we are!’?
36 Who has put wisdom in the mind?[b]
Or who has given understanding to the heart?
37 Who can number the clouds by wisdom?
Or who can pour out the bottles of heaven,
38 When the dust hardens in clumps,
And the clods cling together?
39 “Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
40 When they crouch in their dens,
Or lurk in their lairs to lie in wait?
41 Who provides food for the raven,
When its young ones cry to God,
And wander about for lack of food?

39    “Do you know the time when the wild mountain goats bear young?
Or can you mark when the deer gives birth?
Can you number the months that they fulfill?
Or do you know the time when they bear young?
They bow down,
They bring forth their young,
They deliver their offspring.[a]

Their young ones are healthy,
They grow strong with grain;
They depart and do not return to them.
“Who set the wild donkey free?
Who loosed the bonds of the onager,
Whose home I have made the wilderness,
And the barren land his dwelling?
He scorns the tumult of the city;
He does not heed the shouts of the driver.
The range of the mountains is his pasture,
And he searches after every green thing.
“Will the wild ox be willing to serve you?
Will he bed by your manger?
10 Can you bind the wild ox in the furrow with ropes?
Or will he plow the valleys behind you?
11 Will you trust him because his strength is great?
Or will you leave your labor to him?
12 Will you trust him to bring home your grain,
And gather it to your threshing floor?
13 “The wings of the ostrich wave proudly,
But are her wings and pinions like the kindly stork’s?
14 For she leaves her eggs on the ground,
And warms them in the dust;
15 She forgets that a foot may crush them,
Or that a wild beast may break them.
16 She treats her young harshly, as though they were not hers;
Her labor is in vain, without concern,
17 Because God deprived her of wisdom,
And did not endow her with understanding.
18 When she lifts herself on high,
She scorns the horse and its rider.
19 “Have you given the horse strength?
Have you clothed his neck with thunder?[b]

20 Can you frighten him like a locust?
His majestic snorting strikes terror.
21 He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength;
He gallops into the clash of arms.
22 He mocks at fear, and is not frightened;
Nor does he turn back from the sword.
23 The quiver rattles against him,
The glittering spear and javelin.
24 He devours the distance with fierceness and rage;
Nor does he come to a halt because the trumpet has sounded.
25 At the blast of the trumpet he says, ‘Aha!’
He smells the battle from afar,
The thunder of captains and shouting.
26 “Does the hawk fly by your wisdom,
And spread its wings toward the south?
27 Does the eagle mount up at your command,
And make its nest on high?
28 On the rock it dwells and resides,
On the crag of the rock and the stronghold.
29 From there it spies out the prey;
Its eyes observe from afar.
30 Its young ones suck up blood;
And where the slain are, there it is.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Letting Pain Be Our Guide

If you have ever been sick, or injured or have dealt with any physical ailment, like me, you have probably had a conversation with your doctor about what activities are safe to do. I have had this discussion multiple times in an effort to determine which activities are safe and which will bring more pain or damage. Almost without exception I hear these words, "Let pain be your guide." As I was pondering those words this morning, I decided this was much better advice than I first thought.

All of us, as fallen human beings, know the pain this life brings. Sometimes it is a literal, physical pain; other times, it is more subtle- the pain of rejection, heartbreak, grief, disappointment, bitterness. Pain reminds us that we are mortal. Pain tells us we are weak and frail. Pain screams to us that this life is temporary. Pain constantly whispers in our ear that there are consequences, both physical and emotional, that this sinful world brings. Pain points us to that Future Hope that is without pain.

We cannot escape pain in this world, but we can learn to let it be our guide. Let pain guide you to the cross. Let pain guide you to your knees in prayer. Let pain guide you to the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for He alone can bring true relief.

Are you letting pain be your guide, or are you still ignoring it?